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Patents

A patent is granted by the U.S. Patent Office, an exclusive right to the benefits of an invention or improvement for a precise period of time, based on the novelty (not previously known or described in a publication), usefulness, and “non-obviousness,” (a form which anyone in the field of expertise could identify. Three types of patents exist: a) “utility patent” includes processes, machinery (mechanism with moving parts), products that are manufactured, and compounds or mixtures such as chemical formulas; b) “design patent” which is a novel, original and decorative design for a manufactured article; and c) “plant patent” which is a newly cultivated variety of asexually reproduced plant. For example: Secretary of Agriculture and later Vice President Henry A. Wallace developed hybrid corn that made him rich for life. Utility and plant patents lasts 17 years and a design patent lasts 14 years. All require payment of "maintenance" fees that are payable beginning 3 1/2 years after the issuance to keep them up. When seeking patent protection, a patent law specialist will issue a patent search to verify whether the proposed invention is truly unique, and if so, will fill an application that includes detailed drawings and specifications. While the patent issuance is being waited for, products or designs should be marked "patent pending" or "pat. pending." Once the product receives the patent, it can be marked with the word “patent” along with the number assigned by the Patent Office. The rights to a patent may be transferred as long as the assignment is signed and notarized to establish a record or “licensed” for use. Patent infringement occurs if a product is manufactured which there is an existing patent. As a result, a lawsuit against the infringer may be filed with substantial damages granted. Patent is also utilized to refer to an appliance in expressions such as a “patent defect.”

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